rockets review: game 3 vs. nuggets

Another game, another loss and the Rockets are off to an extremely bad 0-3 start in the season. To make matters worse, this was our home opener and the Nuggets team was very beatable. Our defense finally stepped up to the challenge, holding the Nuggets to just 38% from the field but our poor three-point shooting coupled with our recurring problems with turnovers and second-chance points once again meant that the Rockets came up short against a Western Conference rival.

As witnessed in Game 1, the Houston backcourt is pretty explosive and we will be extremely reliant on them to score points, especially with Yao’s limited minutes. What we saw today is what happens when our backcourt is having a bad shooting night–apart from a valiant effort from Luis Scola, no one really got going. Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin combined for 10 of 27 shooting and hit only 2 shots from downtown in 11 attempts. The rest of the team wasn’t that good from three-point range, either, with the Rockets shooting an abysmal 16% from downtown. The Nuggets, though shooting a low percentage from the field, ended up outscoring us 33 points from the free throw line and three-point line, which was the difference between the two ball clubs.

The game was close all the way through, with Houston managing to keep the lead for most of the minutes until we got to crunch time. A J.R. Smith three pointer with 4 seconds left on the clock in the 3rd quarter broke the game open for the Nuggets as they went up by three going into the fourth quarter. A quick run in the fourth quarter forced separation from the Rockets and we could never pull back quite enough.


Luis Scola continues to be an absolute beast both in the paint and on the glass and he is quickly making a lot of people look stupid for their comments about the Rockets overpaying him in his blockbuster contract in the offseason. Scola works hard every single possession and is one of the few big men in the NBA who runs the floor every time. He’s recorded his third straight double-double of the season and had 28 points and 10 boards tonight and was one of the few Rockets with good shooting numbers. In my first two game recaps, I’ve stressed that Martin and Brooks are our first two scoring options, but I think I do need to re-assess that a bit and give Scola his due. After shaking off the rust in the first couple of games, where he was missing wide open lay-ups, he’s looked like our only consistent scorer with his array of hooks, scoops and fakes in the paint. I’d be surprised if teams didn’t begin scouting the Rockets by identifying his weaknesses, since we could probably be shut out if Scola doesn’t grab his 20-10 every night.

I thought Yao Ming had his best game of the season thus far. He ended up scoring 14 points in the 22 minutes he spent out on the floor today and abused the Nuggets front court early in the game. George Karl adjusted his game plan well, however, and Yao was largely ineffective in the second half, with Melo double-teaming as soon as the pass was made to him. He continues to improve, however, and should be in as good rhythm as we can expect from him in a few more games.

Kyle Lowry was also electric off the bench, not in scoring (in which he was very dull, not making a single field goal) but in running our break and finding the open guys. He played 20 minutes in his first showing of the season and had 3 assists to go with 7 rebounds, which also happened to be the best for our team after Scola. Lowry is going to be huge for us this season if we want to put up a bunch of wins. He’s a perfect complement to Brooks (especially when AB is shooting hot) and is great on the defensive end. I can remember him drawing at least 3 charges in his few minutes out there and I’m sure there were more. If we had Lowry in the first two games, I would go as far as to suggest that we may have been up 2-0 going into this game.

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to the referees in this game. They did a great job from the point of view of letting the game be played. It was a very physical game, especially with players driving into the paint, but the refs controlled their whistles well. That said, there were a bunch of missed calls. As a Rockets fan, I obviously only saw the ones going against us, but I can recall three missed calls off the top of my head. The first was early in the game under the Rockets basket where Yao was called for nudging the ball out whereas replays showed it went off Nene. The second was later in the game during a Lowry fast break, where the ball clearly went off a Nugget player’s foot. The third was in the fourth quarter when Carmelo changed his pivot foot! Of course, the NBA is typically very lax on actually enforcing rules such as traveling, so this wasn’t a surprise, especially since it was a player of Melo’s caliber who committed the offense. On the whole, though, I hope to see a similarly subdued performance from the referees. Nothing annoys me more than the game turning into a free throw shooting contest.


The same old culprits raise their ugly heads again: turnovers and offensive boards. We had 19 turnovers today, which is just shy off our season-opening total of 20, and what was even worse is that Denver managed to score off most of them. Our defensive rebounding once again left a lot to be desired, with the Nuggets grabbing 13 offensive boards. Once again, most of the offensive boards came courtesy of missed box outs and lazy rebounding.

Our three-point shooting was atrocious today. For a team that depends so heavily on it’s outside shooting, today was hopefully just a blip. Kevin Martin was 1 of 7 and Brooks hit one from four chances. What annoyed me more than the shots missing—every team has bad nights from downtown—was the fact that we kept shooting from downtown early in possessions. Even once we got the Nuggets into the penalty, we would be setting high screens and launching threes. With Scola pretty much having his way in the paint, we should have been taking a lot fewer shots from downtown. Although, to be fair, a lot of them were very wide open and would have fallen on other nights.

Finally, we improved our defense quite a lot. I saw a lot contested shots and good help defense. We were pretty good at guarding the paint today. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Al Harrington was left wide open over and over and over again. I can recall at least three wide open three pointers that he had due to good ball movement. He knocked down every single one of them en route to 5 of 8 shooting from downtown. We’re still not moving our feet well enough on defense and a good offensive club, like the Nuggets, will move the ball around enough to find an open shot.


All in all, this was another disappointing loss and we still need to get a win on the scoreboard. This team was very beatable and although the box score doesn’t demonstrate this, we played them well up until the fourth quarter. Today, it was our offense that failed to get us the win after our defense did a good job to keep the Nuggets shooting at 38% and keeping Melo quiet at 24 points. Turnovers and defensive rebounding are things we have to work on going into this next week of games. Today, the Nuggets attempted 10 more shots than us and won shooting a worse percentage than us by hitting the big shots and getting to the line.

An 0-3 start is not good for a franchise that is supposed to be in a good year, however there are still 79 long games left in the season. I was a lot more annoyed when I started this recap than right now, so hopefully my optimism is not misplaced. Our next game is at home against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday at the Toyota Center. We have a few days to regroup and prepare for a team that is currently at the top of our division, unbeaten with 3 wins. Here’s hoping that we fix the flaws and get our first win of the season!

rockets review: game 2 vs. warriors

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The defensive struggles continued for the Houston Rockets tonight as they fell to a scorching hot Warriors backcourt. Monta Ellis was absolutely unstoppable, except from the free throw line, and pummeled the Rockets for 46 points, his career high. Stephen Curry added 25 as the Warriors starting backcourt outscored the Houston one 71-41. The Warriors ended up winning by just four points, 132-128, but the end score looked a lot closer than it actually was due to massive free throw disparity between the two teams.

Houston could never get going from the field with most of their first half points coming from flashes into the paint. Brooks (4-15) and Martin (5-14) had poor shooting nights and you know it’s not going to be a good night when Chuck Hayes had the second most baskets from the field for this Rockets team. The team ended up shooting a respectable 48 percent, but their defense failed as the Warriors ended the night at 55 percent from the field, including 8 three pointers on 40 percent shooting.

As with yesterday, let me break it down into the positives and negatives that I saw.


Luis Scola played his heart out and ended up with 36 points and 16 boards. He was nearly unstoppable in the paint but once again missed a few open layups at the hole. Impressively, Scola even had a dunk early in the game, something of a rarity for the big Argentinian.

Kevin Martin quickly realized that he was not having his best shooting night and instead concentrated on getting to the line. The man’s ability to create contact is impressive as Martin converted on every single one of his 17 free throws. As our primary offensive option this season, it is good to know that he can still score points on a bad shooting night. A better defensive team may consider giving him more open jumpers, but he is a good enough shooter to eventually find his range. Chuck Hayes was the other positive for us, playing well above average on the offensive end to record 16 points while also dishing out 6 assists. He played David Lee pretty well and pretty much kept Brad Miller out of the game for almost the entire game.

We also did well to cut down on our turnovers–this game would have been even uglier for a Rockets fan if we had given the Warriors more opportunities to run their break.


Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end. The negatives today were numerous in number. First and foremost, our defensive rebounding was once again suspect. We allowed the Warriors to amass 14 offensive boards, with most of these resulting in second chance points. Once again, even though we did pick up 15 offensive boards of our own, many of ours were once again botched at the paint or came in garbage time through Scola follows.

Aaron Brooks was horrible today and a lot of the Warriors’ transition buckets were scored off bad shot attempts by him. Brooks did still manage to get 6 assists, but he had a very poor shooting night, and tried to shoot his way out of it during the game. I remember him doing this a few times last season–shooting over and over again even though he was not shooting well–and more often than not, we lost those games. Many of our first half points were scored by getting the ball in the post to Battier, Scola and the Chuckwagon whereas in the second half we were trying to create high pick-and-rolls and attempt jump shots. Budinger was once again okay without being spectacular, although it was obvious that we weren’t running too many plays for him.

Going back to Battier, his defense was again seemingly non-existent against a red-hot Monta Ellis. Of course, the Rockets can’t be blamed for coming up against an Ellis that was on so much fire, but we are banking on Battier to be our defensive stopper, and letting a defensive assignment go 18-24 on the night from the field probably requires some criticism. I don’t think Battier is one of the elite defenders in the NBA anymore. He’s definitely lost a step that allows superb offensive weapons such as Kobe and Ellis to create space and knock down their shots.

Finally, our rotation was questionable today. Although the Chuckwagon was playing well, it was interesting that we didn’t see Brad Miller until very late in the second half. He didn’t do too much in his two odd minutes but then he didn’t really have a lot of time to work. This was probably a result of us trying to keep pace with the Warriors game, although it is worth pointing out that Hayes isn’t exactly speedy, even compared to Miller.


This loss will hurt. Starting the season 0-2 is never good, but losing to one of the few teams that has worse defense than us is going to hurt. I posted earlier on a discussion board suggesting that my biggest problem with the Rockets last year is that even though we went 42-40, we dropped a lot of games against opponents we should have beat. A win in the second game is worth the same as a win in the second-last game of the season. There’s a lot let pressure to get the win now, though, than getting it in crunch time when the Western Conference playoff race inevitably becomes tight.

We can write this loss off to a superb offensive performance from Ellis, but by doing so we’d be ignoring the other holes in our system–including our poor defensive rotation as well as our inability to prevent offensive boards. Stephen Curry was able to create too much space on his isolation moves and Brooks continues to let players fake him out and take open jumpers. Lowry cannot come back quickly enough.

All this said, it is worth pointing out that the Warriors won the game by making a lot of hard shots. It’s hard to stop a team that shoots between 50 and 60 percent the entire game, with most of the shots coming from jump shots.

Special Shoutout to Warriors’ CSN Announcers

The Warriors announcers evidently don’t understand how basketball works. All night they were complaining about free throw disparity whereas they failed to realize that the Warriors were essentially shooting and draining jump shots all game whereas the Rockets were taking it into the paint (hence the 66-48 disparity in the points in the paint statistic). There’s no rule in the NBA that both teams should shoot a similar number of free throws–if you’re not taking it to the hole you’re not going to be getting free throws. Learn the game, guys!

rockets review: game 1 vs. lakers

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Game 1 of the NBA 2010-2011 season and it couldn’t have come a moment sooner. After Miami struggled to gel and went down to a defensively strong Celtics team, the icing on the cake would have been for the Rockets to upset the Lakers in their own building right after the ring ceremony. And we got very close to that but fell short at the distance.

The Rockets opened up a big lead in the first half–I think it was up to almost 15 or 17 points at one stage. The Lakers trimmed it down to 11 at the half and then came out played solid defense in the second half. So solid, in fact, that the Rockets went from hovering around the 50% mark in shooting from the field to the 30s. Their offense was helped in no small part by the repeated second chance points as they got offensive rebound after offensive rebound to score off their misses. In fact, looking at the final box score, the Rockets shot better from the field and the free throw line, had more offensive and defensive boards and more assists. They made one fewer three pointer (which in hindsight was probably the difference) and committed far too many turnovers. You can’t afford to give a team like the Lakers five extra possessions and come away with the win.

Anyways, let me quickly dissect the positives and negatives of this game from the Rockets POV.


What worked for us today was our backcourt. Martin and Brooks dominated, scoring 50 points off 15/33 shooting with 7 combined three pointers off 12 attempts. If Martin hadn’t gotten into foul trouble for guarding Kobe, this game could’ve ended up differently. As it happened, Martin ended the game with fewer than 30 minutes. Brad Miller fit into the scheme very well indeed. Both of his assists were in the high post to players cutting the baseline–once Martin and once Budinger. Both players ended up with 3-point plays. I even saw him run the floor in one of the breaks and his 9 boards off the bench is something we will be counting on.

Budinger had good numbers without being spectacular. Courtney Lee looked pretty good in the minutes he played, but he will need to get rid of the one-on-one basketball that he tried in the fourth as the Lakers were on a run. He had a couple of fast breaks that will definitely be useful going up against teams that have poorer transition defense.


Yao Ming was the biggest negative for me, although it is a bit unfair since this is his first “real” game back. Although he did grab 11 boards in his just-under 24 minutes, he missed a bunch of wide open layups. Missing a layup when you can touch the rim with your feet still on the ground is not something I am too impressed with. Hopefully it’s just a conditioning thing, though. He also missed a bunch of box outs that allowed Odom and Gasol’s stats look a lot better than they should have.

Our rebounding as a whole was pretty disappointing although Scola did pick up the slack eventually. Kobe did go 8-20, not his best night, but there were times when he looked unstoppable. None of Battier/Martin/Lee seemed to even bother him and many of the shots he missed were just rimming out. Hopefully this is just a case of Kobe being Kobe, but we may well struggle with other Western Conference playmakers such as Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, etc.

The team as a whole failed on protecting the ball, with our starters dishing out 16 of our 20 turnovers.


This was a good start to the season as a pessimistic Rockets fan (which I’m not) but it was a very winnable game. The Lakers have a lot of new pieces that don’t have the experience playing in this offense. The Rockets have a lot of new pieces as well, but many of these pieces have played the Adelman offense before.

It was interesting that neither of Jeffries/Jordan Hill were entered into the rotation given that we were being burnt by the Laker bigs on the glass (particularly Odom). Perhaps Adelman figured that we needed to beat the Lakers with our offense rather than our defense and decided to keep guys who could put points on the board (although to be fair, Jeffries/Hill would probably have taken the Chuckwagon’s minutes, and he didn’t really give up that many boards).

Anyway, here’s hoping that we’ve fixed the kinks and dominate the Warriors tomorrow!